August 31, 2009

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

I have to admit I am a bit overwhelmed writing my review of Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. Luckily I am on vacation so I have all the time I need to give it a go. Sepulchre is over 735 pages long not including the Reader's Notes and Sepulchre Tour pages. Very daunting number of pages to any reader I should imagine...and then writing a credible review that encompasses all the themes...well you can see why I'm daunted! The book was very seductive though and breezed by on a tense plot, shortish chapters and intrepid characters. Sepulchre blends mystery and crime with gothic drama and a hint of romance.

I'm a big fan of timeslip novels...although usually I find a character from one period is more interesting or stronger in voice than the character in the other time period. I thought the main characters from the past and present were equally as strong in Sepulchre, though more of the story is given over to the past. Leonie Vernier is our heroine from the late 1900s, a young girl of seventeen who demonstrates a naive willfulness that causes death and harm to those she loves. Eventually she triumphs over evil at great cost to herself...unable to rest peacefully in death as her story remains untold, she begins to haunt her distant relative Meredith Martin, after Meredith indulges in an impulsive tarot reading while researching Debussy on her long awaited trip to Paris. 2007 - Meredith Martin is come to Paris to finalize her research on Claude Debussy, although this is not her only motive for visiting France... she is determined to discover her ancestral legacy using a lone photograph she has been given of a sepia soldier. After a strange tarot card reading she begins to have frightening dreams, echos from the past, which only become more intense while visiting a mysterious hotel in southern France called the Domaine de le Cade.

Sepulchre is the second book in Mosse's Languedoc Trilogy, very loosely connected to the first in the trilogy, Labyrinth, although focusing on different time periods and events, as well as varying in tone and storyline. Sepulchre relies more upon dramatic gothic and supernatural elements to create tension, while Labyrinth trends more to the spiritual and mythical. The books have entirely different cast of characters. If you do not care for heavy gothic overtones (a malignant oppressiveness), nor have an interest in the symbolism of tarot or suggestion of supernatural patterns, repetition in music, then this is probably not the book for you...but I very much enjoy dark, mysterious novels and really was captivated by this one!! I would venture to say I preferred Sepulchre over Labyrinth, much more drawn to the features and tone of this more recent read. Reading Sepulchre was like putting together pieces of a complex puzzle, knowledge revealed little by little.
Mosse does not give more weight to the research than the characters or plot and this is an impressive feat. There was so much description given about the areas in France that the book is set in, Rennes-les-Bains, Paris, as well as Carcassonne, and patterns in music, symbolism of tarot but these do not distract from the plot which flows along seamlessly in parallel with all the details. I can't imagine the amount of research Mosse must have put together...but you can get an idea of her sources by perusing the Sepulchre Tour inclusion at the back of the novel. This is a book to put down and ponder before greedily snatching up again.
The third book in the Languedoc trilogy is The Winter Ghosts to be released in hardcover this fall.
My Rating: 4.5

Suggested Recommendations for Related Reading with Gothic Elements:
Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin

August 22, 2009

Tuesday Thingers, Vacationing

Tuesday's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Have you recently browsed any of the groups? Are you actively participating in any groups? Do you have any favorites?
I recently browsed the Early Reviewer's group and I think I am a member but not sure. This would be my favourite group. Its a good reference place to see if others have received their books yet. I find it difficult to juggle my blog with my work and I have found that I am not able to read as much as I used to, which is making me unhappy and depressed. So joining groups takes away from the reading I can do because I end up spending more time on the computer. I do have groups on ChaptersIndigo Community that I keep up 50 books in 2009... but I find myself posting less. I do not want to sacrifice reading time to be on the computer so some things have to get cut.
Hello Sunshine
I am way late this week posting my TuesdayThinger answer and I may miss next week...because I will be on vacation. Whoo hoo!! We have not had any other vacation this year so I am really looking forward to it. Wine tours, golf, sun, sand...what could be better!!
So I am trying to plan what books to bring with me on vacation. I was having trouble for awhile there reading anything overlong, so I decided to read something lighter, hence Beauty by Robin McKinley. I just started reading Sepulchre by Kate Mosse, a weighty book at over 700 pages, since I promised myself my next read after Beauty would be longer and require dedication. Liking it so far. I have decided to to bring The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley and the first three books in C.L. Wilson's Tauren Soul series. I'd like to bring an additional historical fiction or mystery option. So, out of the list below what do you think would be perfect to read on my summer vacation?
Grand Sophy or Arabella, Georgette Heyer
A Fatal Waltz, Tasha Alexander
The Last Queen, C.W. Gortner
Grave Goods, Ariana Franklin
The Meaning of Night Michael Cox
Sacrifice, S.J. Bolton

Beauty by Robin McKinley

This much-loved retelling of the classic French tale Beauty and the Beast elicits the familiar magical charm, but is more believable and complex than the traditional story. In this version, Beauty is not as beautiful as her older sisters, who are both lovely and kind. Here, in fact, Beauty has no confidence in her appearance but takes pride in her own intelligence, her love of learning and books, and her talent in riding. She is the most competent of the three sisters, which proves essential when they are forced to retire to the country because of their father's financial ruin.
The plot follows that of the renowned legend: Beauty selflessly agrees to inhabit the Beast's castle to spare her father's life. Beauty's gradual acceptance of the Beast and the couple's deepening trust and affection are amplified in novel form. Robin McKinley's writing has the flavor of another century, and Beauty heightens the authenticity as a reliable and competent narrator.
I like that McKinley creates a realistic setting, although with magical elements, and real life problems for Beauty and her family to struggle through. The family has lived a charmed life until a string of bad luck reduces them to living on a very small farm, having to learn chores and to do for themselves. Beauty avoids the mirror and revels in being the tomboy she always has been at heart, thinking herself plain and mousy. She has courage to make a sacrifice for her family and in doing so discovers more about herself and what she desires out of life. She overcomes her timidity with the Beast and eventually realizes, like how she views herself, that one's heart and character on the inside is more important than what one looks like on the outside. There are many themes that young adults can relate to: courage, honor, working hard, sacrifice, true beauty, being humble and thankful, etc.
What I found odd about the Beauty storyline was that it was not linear. McKinley would reference present events and then skip back to past events to explain and expound and then skip back to the present events. Seemed hodge podge when past events could have been all explained in a prologue. That said ... McKinley created interesting characters each with their own quirks.
I guess I was expecting more content and fluidity to the writing and the numerous spelling mistakes were distracting. It was a bit difficult reading the first half of the book getting used to the abrupt sentence structure. Although if I think the writing style would suit pre-teen and teen readers well. Solidly young adult fiction although I would recommend anyone can read the story and enjoy it.
My Rating: 3.5 Chapters Amazon

August 17, 2009

Promises in Death by J.D. Robb

NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas always does her best to solve every one of her cases, but her latest assignment just might be her most difficult yet. Not only was the victim, Amarylis Coltraine, a cop who was killed with her own weapon, but the case also takes on an added personal dimension since Amarylis was Chief Medical Examiner Morris’ lover, and Morris is one of Eve’s best friends. When the killer sends Eve a package containing Coltraine’s badge, weapon, and a taunting note suggesting that she might be next on the list, Eve finds herself trying to untangle a case that may be linked to her own past. All of the familiar ingredients Robb’s millions of readers expect to fall neatly into place—a cleverly constructed plot, an intriguing cast of secondary characters, and a sexy romance between tough-as-nails Eve and her mysterious billionaire husband Roarke—do so in the 30th gritty, suspenseful addition to Robb’s best-selling, futuristic police-procedural series. I loved everything about this addition to the in Death series, including the coral cover which just screams...It's me! Whereas I was quite disappointed in the previous release, Salvation in Death, this one satisfied on all fronts. Eve seems much more comfortable being a wife, yet much still baffles her about life and relationships. The connection between Eve and Roarke was much more focused on with Eve experiencing a series of revelations or conclusions about herself and their relationship. I felt Eve really grew in this novel as a person and as a cop. In Salvation in Death I thought the book lacked on the emotional front. Well, Promises in Death more than makes up for it. Eve responds to a call and finds the body of murdered Detective Amarylis Coltraine, the woman that her friend Medical Examiner Morris had been dating for the past year. I reread the first 20 pages of the book a few times and it made me want to break out crying every time. Although the story focuses on a devastating event there were a lot of funny moments too. Especially Eve describing the goings on at Louise's bachelorette party. There seemed to be more snarling, witty, and snappy dialogue than usual too, a feature I have come to anticipate from every Robb novel. Promises in Death deals with a deeper and more complex crime involving a criminal from Eve and Roarke's past. Robb ponders the sins of the father and what a son or daughter make of their life with the family they have been dealt. I think "Promises" in Promises in Death means Eve's promise to Morris to find Coltraine's killer...Eve's and Roarke's promise to each to always communicate and for each to make the right decisions even when those decisions are difficult. I thought this was one of the best in Death books. Would have liked a final subconscious conversation from Eve between her and Coltraine after she brings down the murderer. I'm interested to see where Robb takes the series from here and plan to read the newest release Kindred in Death. My Rating: 4.0 Chapters Amazon Related Posts: Salvation in Death Naked in Death

August 14, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Rigler

I don't think Miss Austen would have been impressed. Courtney Stone falls into the life of Jane Mansfield in the time of Jane Austen. Inhabiting Jane’s body Courtney experiences life in 1813 England and learns who she truly is and discovers her destiny. I thought the idea for the book was good but could have been executed better. I’m a fast reader and having paragraphs of 6 or 8 word sentences made the story seem choppy and incoherent. The story switched so often between thinking like Jane to thinking like Courtney that it had a whole disjointed feeling. On the other side the story was lively and rollicking, and it was interesting enough for me to read the whole thing, just would have liked more content. Doubtful if I will read the next in the series Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up to find herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy? Not only is Courtney stuck inside another womanas life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. For her borrowed body knows how to speak without slaying the Kingas English, dance without maiming her partner, and embroider as if possessed by actual domestic skill. But not even Courtneyas level of Austen mania has prepared her for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condom-less seducers, and marriages of convenience. Enter the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, a suitor who may turn out not to be a familiar species of philanderer after all.

My Rating: 2.0

Chapters Amazon

Related Posts:

Mr. Darcy's Diary Darcy's Story

August 13, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Tuesday's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Did you use the Help button? Did you get some good information on the page you were on? Did you use the edit feature to add/edit any of the information on the page? I don't think I have used Help but I may have when I was first starting out using LibraryThing. What I think is cool though is that the Help pages are created by contributors and members, not just LT staff. I like that Help is intuitive...whatever LT page you are on when you press Help it will give you Help for all the features in that page. I would be very nervous about editing anything. I think I'll just leave that unless I see a very glaring error is a book's record. I never knew what Conversations exactly entailed so the Help page for HelpThing: Work was very useful in describing what the feature is. I will be using this feature going forward to see what is being discussed about a book. One of the links to the left is Your WikiThing page and I do not really understand what this is supposed to be...mine is empty. OK...I want to mention an Improvement I think the Author's page needs...I think it would be GREAT if you could sort the Author's works by Title and rating. Currently I think they are listed in popularity by number of copies.

August 5, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Tuesday's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Have you had an opportunity to check out the new Amazon Vine program? Have you signed up? Is this program something that interests you? How do you feel about the reviews posted on Amazon in general (not counting the ones that have made the news)?
I have not checked out the Amazon Vine program or signed up, although I have heard of it and seen the icon by reviewers names on the website. Unfortunately I have a hard enough time reading and reviewing the books I already do own and that I win from LibraryThing's EarlyReviewers and elsewhere. I love to win books and it would be great to win more but additionally I am picky about what what I read and like to choose the specific books I could win.
I went to the Amazon Vine page and it indicates that it is an invitation only program...not a fan of this. EarlyReviewers seems much more fair with any permanent member able to join and "Request" to win.
I wonder at times about the Amazon reviews...I think the reviewers could be influenced. I have heard in the past about writers having their friends post positive reviews on their books, although I think this was a predecessor program to Vine. Amazon Vine members definitely provide longer reviews and I like that and I think on average the reviews are fair.